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(2nd LD) Baseball club officials, players booked over match-fixing scandal

All Headlines 14:37 November 07, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS club's apology in paras 10-13)

UIJEONGBU, South Korea, Nov. 7 (Yonhap) -- Baseball club officials and players have been booked for their alleged involvement in a match-fixing scandal, South Korean police announced on Monday.

The Gyeonggi Bukbu Provincial Police Agency said two executives of the NC Dinos in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) were booked without physical detention on fraud charges in a match-fixing scandal that involves two active baseball players. This is the first time that club officials have been charged for their involvement in a match-fixing scandal.

According to the police, the Dinos' general manager and operation division chief didn't report to the KBO even after they found that their former pitcher Lee Sung-min was engaged in match fixing. The police said they concealed Lee's wrongdoing to protect their club's public image. Instead, they leaked a false rumor about the right-hander, saying "he has good talent, but isn't serious about playing baseball and doesn't have a good relationship with coaching staff," the police investigation showed.

Lee, who joined the Dinos in 2013, was traded to the expansion club KT Wiz in 2015, and the Dinos received 1 billion won (US$876,570) from the deal.

Lee, who is now with the Lotte Giants, is one of two active players who were booked for match fixing, along with Kia Tigers pitcher Yoo Chang-sik, the police said. Both players had deliberately walked a batter in 2014.

The police said Lee received 3 million won for deliberately allowing walks in the first inning of the game against the LG Twins on July 4.

The police added Yoo, who was then pitching for another club, the Hanwha Eagles, had issued a deliberate free pass in the top first against the Samsung Lions on April 1 and did the same against the Twins on April 19.

The 24-year-old southpaw received 3 million won from a broker for his deliberate walk, the police said. The broker, who is only identified by his surname Kim and is the older brother of the current KBO player, was also booked without physical detention.

"These players issued walks in the first inning on purpose, trying to deceive their manager and fans that they were not fully warmed up," the police said. "For fairness and sound sports spirit, we will continue to investigate match fixing and illegal gambling."

The Dinos apologized for the incident in a statement, saying they won't make any excuses.

"We'd like to issue a heartfelt apology to our fans for damaging the principle of 'clean baseball,' which must be strictly honored above all else," the club said.

The police said the Dinos are denying charges that they were trying to cover up Lee's case. In their statement, the Dinos insisted they have been "actively cooperating" with the authorities since their investigation began in July, and that they won't evade their responsibilities.

"We believe these police findings will force our club to get our act together, and baseball will become an even more trustworthy sport after this," the Dinos went on. "As for the accusations that we face, we'll find appropriate ways to explain our position, and transparently disclose our findings."

The police, however, didn't book the Dinos pitcher Lee Jae-hak, who also faced a police investigation on match fixing in recent months. Due to the investigation, the 26-year-old was not included in the Dinos' roster for the playoffs as well as the championship series, where the Dinos suffered a four-game sweep to the Doosan Bears.

The KBO said it will decide the penalty on the players in match-fixing scandal after the court ruling.

"We've just heard about the result of the police investigation, but we'll able to talk about it (the penalty) after the court's final ruling," said Yang Hae-young, KBO's secretary-general. "If the match fixing is true, they will probably face a lifetime ban."

Under the KBO code, the Dinos are also likely to receive a punishment from the league's discipline committee for deliberately concealing their player's illegal activity.

Park Min-soon, chief of the cybercrime investigation team at Gyeonggi Bukbu Provincial Police Agency, speaks during a press conference in Uijeongbu, northeast of Seoul, on Nov. 7, 2016. The agency said two executives of the NC Dinos in the Korea Baseball Organization have been booked without physical detention on fraud charges in a match-fixing scandal that involves two active baseball players. (Yonhap)


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